Indigestion… How you can effectively reduce your discomfort

Indigestion is caused when stomach acid comes into contact with the sensitive and protective lining of the digestive system. The stomach acid breaks down the lining, leading to irritation and inflammation. In most cases indigestion is related to eating, but it can also be caused by smoking, drinking alcohol or taking certain medications.

The symptoms of indigestion are:

  • Discomfort in your chest or stomach
  • Feeling full or bloated
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling sick
  • Belching
Control mild, occasional indigestion… With just a few simple diet and lifestyle changes

If you have indigestion only occasionally with mild pain and discomfort, you may not need to see your GP for treatment. It may be possible to ease your symptoms by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle:

  • Keep to a healthy weight

    Being overweight puts more pressure on your stomach, so it’s easier for stomach acid to be pushed back up into your oesophagus. It’s one of the most common causes of indigestion.
    If you’re overweight or obese, it’s important to lose weight safely and steadily through regular exercise and by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Pop into your local Lloydspharmacy and ask a member of the pharmacy team for more help and advice.
  • Quit smoking

    The chemicals you inhale in cigarette smoke can cause the ring of muscle that separates your oesophagus (gullet) from your stomach to relax. This allows stomach acid to leak back up into your oesophagus more easily (acid reflux). So stopping smoking’s a good way to reduce the risk of heartburn. You’ll be more likely to succeed in your quit attempt if you have the right support, advice and products, so ask the pharmacy team about the Lloydspharmacy Stop Smoking Service.
  • Avoid the food and drinks that can bring on your indigestion
    These will be personal to you so make a note of your particular triggers. This may include:
    • Eating fewer rich, spicy and fatty foods
    • Cutting down on drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea, coffee and coke
    • Cutting out or down on alcohol
If you experience indigestion symptoms at night:
  • Avoid eating for three to four hours before you go to bed
  • Going to bed with a full stomach increases the risk that acid in your stomach will be forced up into your oesophagus while you’re lying down
  • Prop your head up at bedtime and raise the mattress - the slight slope you’ll create should help prevent stomach acid moving up into your oesophagus
Treatments to control and relieve your heartburn

You may also be able to treat your indigestion with over-the-counter medicines, such as Antacids and Alginates.

Antacids neutralise the effects of stomach acid and can work in two ways:

  • To coat the surface of the oesophagus with a protective barrier against stomach acid
  • To produce a gel on the stomach’s surface which helps stop acid leaking up into the oesophagus, preventing the symptoms of heartburn

You shouldn’t take antacids at the same time as any other medicines as they can stop them from properly being absorbed into your body. They may also damage the special coating on some types of tablets, so ask your GP or pharmacist for more advice.

Alginates are an alternative type of medicine to antacids. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid leaks back up into your oesophagus and irritates its lining. Alginates form a foam barrier that floats on the surface of your stomach contents, keeping stomach acid in your stomach and away from your oesophagus.

For more information about the best treatments for you just ask your pharmacy team at your Local LloydsPharmacy.